Elections

In a close NC congressional race, VP’s wife makes a pitch for the women’s vote

Mike Pence, Republican candidate for Vice-President along with his wife Karen greet the crowd as he spoke during a town hall meeting event at the Fletcher Opera Theater at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in Raleigh, N.C. Thursday, August 4, 2016.
Mike Pence, Republican candidate for Vice-President along with his wife Karen greet the crowd as he spoke during a town hall meeting event at the Fletcher Opera Theater at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in Raleigh, N.C. Thursday, August 4, 2016. cliddy@newsobserver.com

With two high-profile events, supporters of Republican congressional candidate Mark Harris are taking aim for what’s likely to be the largest group of voters in next month’s elections: Women.

Karen Pence, the wife of Vice President Mike Pence, headlined a Monday rally in Charlotte and kicked off a bus tour for a group called Women for Harris. On Tuesday Fox News contributor Kimberly Guilfoyle will appear at another Charlotte rally.

Pence underscored the importance of the 9th District contest. “This race could be the one it comes down to to keeping Republicans in the majority in the House,” she said.

Her appearance came the day a new poll showed women driving a slight Democratic advantage in 69 House battlegrounds across the country, including North Carolina’s 9th District. The Washington Post-Schar School survey of 2,672 likely voters showed women back Democrats by a margin of 54 percent to 40 percent.

Even a New York Times Poll that found Harris leading Democrat Dan McCready by 5 points showed women favored McCready 50 percent to 38 percent.

Women voters typically outnumber men at the ballot box. One 2016 exit poll showed women made up 54 percent of voters. And an analysis of this year’s absentee ballot requests by Catawba College political scientist Michael Bitzer shows North Carolina Democratic women requesting them at twice the rate of Republican women.

The fight for women’s votes comes on the heels of contentious hearings and votes for now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. The hearings featured emotional testimony from Christine Blasey Ford, who claimed Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in high school, a charge that was never proven.

Democrats are counting on anger among college educated women to help them this year. A Politico/Morning Consult poll last month showed Democratic women more motivated to vote than any other group.

“Right now it seems like the Democratic wave will be built on the female vote,” Bitzer said Monday. “Following Kavanaugh, it will be interesting to see whether that imbalance between registered Democrats and registered Republicans evens out. But if it doesn’t this could be the signal that there’s a pretty healthy wave coming through.”

In seeking to appeal to women, Pence Monday cited the strength of the economy, low unemployment, a stronger military and other accomplishments of the Trump administration.

“All issues are women’s issues,” she told the Observer. “We’re really results-driven.”

Kelly Dittmar, a scholar with the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers, said while Democrats can use the hearings to energize their base, Republicans will do the same.

“Republicans can also use the Kavanaugh issue.. .. but more in the vein that ‘This president has promised to get conservatives on the Supreme Court and he’s come through,” she said. “The messaging on Kavanaugh will be different on both sides.”

The Women for Harris campaign comes after Harris, a former pastor, found himself under fire earlier this year for comments about women. National news outlets published excerpts from sermons in 2013 and 2014 in which he called on women to “submit” to their husbands. Another sermon questioned whether a career was the “healthiest pursuit” for women.

Defenders say Harris cited Biblical passages that mean couples should honor and respect each other. But McCready attacked what he calls Harris’ “backward views.”

Also Monday, a new poll from the conservative Civitas Institute showed McCready with 45 percent to Harris’s 41 percent. An earlier Civitas poll showed McCready with a 7 percent lead.

Staff writer Ely Portillo contributed.

Jim Morrill, 704-358-5059; @jimmorrill



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